10 True Crime Movies That Will Chill You to the Bone
Telling yourself "it's only a movie" won't work with these terrifying true crime films. Lock the doors and prepare for chills.
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Steve Carell gives an Oscar-nominated performance as John du Pont, the sociopathic heir to the du Pont family fortune. In the 1990s, du Pont recruits Mark and Dave Schultz (Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo), Olympic gold medal-winning wrestlers and siblings, to start a training camp on his estate. His obsession for the sport and the brothers, however, turns dark. Foxcatcher is a mesmerizing true crime movie about wealth, madness and the struggle to win at any cost.
Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
This classic true crime movie follows real-life outlaws Bonnie Parker (Faye Dunaway) and Clyde Barrow (Warren Beatty), who went on a bank-robbing and murder spree during the Great Depression. Bonnie and Clyde was considered revolutionary for its unsparing depiction of crime and violence. (The final shootout is as shocking today as it was in 1967.)
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This Best Picture Oscar winner follows the real-life “Spotlight” team at the Boston Globe, a group of reporters renowned for its in-depth exposés. Spotlight is based on the team’s early 2000s investigation into cases of systemic child sex abuse in the Boston area by Roman Catholic priests. Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams and Mark Ruffalo star as the dedicated fact-finders.
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In Cold Blood (1967)
Truman Capote’s non-fiction book In Cold Blood chilled American readers with its disturbing account of a Kansas family that was murdered in their home by two criminals. The film adaptation is just as unnerving. Released in 1967, In Cold Blood stars Robert Blake and Scott Wilson as the murderers. The film’s flashback structure adds tension, as does its eerie use of stylized black-and-white cinematography.
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Reversal of Fortune (1990)
Not many true crime movies can boast a cast of this pedigree! In the late 1970s, Danish socialite Claus von Bülow (Jeremy Irons, in an Oscar-winning role) underwent a high-profile trial for attempted murder. The victim? His American wife, Sunny (Glenn Close), who slipped into a coma as a result of an alleged insulin overdose. Did Claus put her there in an attempt to inherit her wealth, or did Sunny fall into the coma by accident?
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From Hell (2001)
In this slasher-thriller, Johnny Depp plays a police detective pursuing Jack the Ripper in Victorian England. Though never solved conclusively, Jack the Ripper was a serial killer who preyed on women in the Whitechapel district of East London. Heather Graham co-stars as real-life victim Mary Kelly, whose fate in From Hell slightly veers from actual history.
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Summer of Sam (1999)
This Spike Lee joint takes place during the murder spree of David Berkowitz. Known as the “Son of Sam” killer, Berkowitz terrorized New York City between July 1976 and July 1977, killing six people and wounding seven others in the process. He was finally captured in August that year and is currently serving six consecutive life sentences. Adrien Brody and John Leguizamo star as two men struggling to make sense of their lives during that notorious summer of fear.
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Heavenly Creatures (1994)
Pre-Titanic Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynskey star as two teenagers in 1950s New Zealand who end up killing one of their mothers. Directed by Peter Jackson of Lord of the Rings fame, Heavenly Creatures is based on newspaper accounts of the crime and trial. Prepare for a dreamlike movie that will shock you to the core.
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Charlize Theron won the Best Actress Oscar for her fearless portrayal of serial killer Aileen Wuornos. The real-life Wuornos had a difficult upbringing that included child prostitution—all her victims were men who she claimed to have killed in self-defense. Monster provides a startling look into Wuornos’ damaged humanity and severe mental illnesses—and will haunt you long after the credits roll.
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Directed by Terrence Malick and starring Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek, Badlands is loosely based on Charlie Starkweather’s killing spree across Nebraska and Wyoming in the late 1950s. At the time of the murders, Starkweather was just 19-years-old, while the girlfriend he brought along with him was just 14. Badlands is justifiably famous for its depiction of lush Midwestern heartland scenery, which plays out in harsh contrast to the film’s horrific crimes and bizarre love story.
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